Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bob Dean's Letter to Education Committee Members

This is a letter sent to the house and senate education committee members

February 9th, 2009

Representative (Name)

First, I want to express my thanks for your attempts to strengthen education in the state of Washington. I know these issues can be frustrating, complicated and require a lot of time. I have also invested a considerable amount of time towards these issues and as a result I feel the need to offer my perspective about two issues: 1) End of Course Testing and 2) High School Curriculum Recommendations.

End of Course Assessments

I was a supporter of EOC’s long before RCW 28A.655.066 was enacted. I want to refer specifically to the passage below:

The superintendent shall develop end-of-course assessments in algebra I, geometry, integrated mathematics I, and integrated mathematics II

This legislation was originally passed prior to the time that the new math standards were developed. It was correctly determined at that time that we would need to develop end of course assessments in both traditional and integrated courses. However, now that the new standards do exist we need to reevaluate this decision based on the new standards.

The end-of-course assessments will be made to assess a student’s knowledge of the algebra I standards or the integrated 1 standards as described in the revised Washington K-12 mathematics standards. It was originally assumed the standards for algebra I and integrated I would be quite different however it turns out that the standards are not that different at all.

Of the 40 standards that are contained in algebra I and integrated I, 33 of them are identical. This alone would insure that the end of course assessments based on the revised standards would be almost the same. Further, 4 of the remaining 7 standards found in algebra I are covered in every popular integrated program despite the fact that they are not in the integrated 1 state standards. That means that there are only 3 of the 40 standards in algebra I that would not be either mandated or covered in a typical integrated 1 program. Considering the cost of developing and administering these assessments, it hardly seems logical that you would have two different assessments because of 3 out of 40 standards. Obviously, these three standards could easily be covered with supplementary materials. The original legislation that led to the changes in RCW 28A.655.066 never anticipated that we would end up with standards for algebra I and integrated 1 that are almost identical but that is exactly what we have.

High School Curriculum Recommendations

Although the final high school curriculum recommendations have not yet been determined, I am concerned that the preliminary recommendations are problematic. In particular, OSPI and SBE recommended two programs that were highly aligned to the new revised math standards and one integrated program, Core Plus, that is poorly aligned to the standards. The reasoning behind selecting an integrated program, despite its lack of alignment, is that approximately 40% of the high school students use some kind of Integrated curriculum thus the state should include an Integrated curriculum in the recommendations. There are two major reasons why this idea is a very bad idea.

First, there is no such thing as a typical integrated program. Core-Plus is only used by 16% of the students in the state and it doesn’t come close to resembling other integrated programs. Thus recommending this program will hardly give comfort to the majority schools who use a different Integrated program. Secondly, Core-Plus simply does not align to the standards by course. For example, OSPI’s initial findings show that the Core-Plus Integrated 1 course is either missing or deficient in 18 of the 32 content standards. A student taking Core-Plus 1 would not be prepared to take and end-of course assessment on the integrated 1 standards. Core-Plus 2 is even worse: 22 of the 32 Integrated 2 content standards are either missing or deficient.

The curriculum review process is not completed as of yet. The consultant, Strategic Teaching, is presently making its own review of the top 3 rated curricula and Core Plus. They will present their results at our next Math Panel meeting on March 3rd. Based on what I know at this time, I don’t see how Core Plus can survive this process; nor should it. The data is clear that students in Core Plus would have a very difficult time trying to pass an end-of-course assessment based on either the integrated 1 or integrated 2 standards.

The fact is there is no integrated program that will align well to the revised math standards. This is no surprise because when we initially wrote the standards we formed the standards based on courses in algebra I, geometry, algebra II and statistics. The integrated courses were formed by simply taking those standards and rearranging them into Integrated 1, 2 and 3. This is not how any integrated curriculum is created and that is why you will not find an integrated curriculum that will align to the Washington revised math standards. Should we recommend an integrated curriculum for high school anyway based on the fact that 40% of the schools use some kind of integrated program? Consider that we did not recommend Connected Math at the middle school level because it did not align to the state standards: This, despite the fact that 65% of the middle schools in this state use Connected Math.

Finally, we find ourselves in a dilemma. If we recommend an integrated curriculum that does not align to the state standards then we risk having mass test failures and a repeat of the WASL fiasco. If we don’t recommend an integrated curriculum then it is hard to justify having an integrated end-of-course assessment that by necessity will almost duplicate any algebra I end-of-course assessment. This matter needs to be given much thought if we don’t want to repeat past errors.

In my professional judgment, the only responsible decision, given our current standards, is to have only one end-of-course assessment in both algebra I and geometry. I hope you will think deeply about these issues. As a good legislator told me, “We have to get this right…people are waiting to see if government works.” I am available at any time to expound on these issues in person if it would help to clarify the situation.


Bob Dean
Math Dept Chairman
Evergreen High School
State Board of Education
Math Advisory Panel Member
OSPI Standards Revision Team
WTM Executive Committee


Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing this reasoning to help the decision making process. My concern is with the Discovering series for Alg/Geom/Alg2. The Geometry textbook is not even mentioned as a suitable curriculum for the second year. How is this text going to help a sophomore pass the Geometry end of course exam? I believe more thought is needed on this concern.


dan dempsey said...


I piloted Discovering Algebra in 2000-2001. Worst Algebra book I've ever used.

Great title however. The kids will have to discover algebra because very little algebra is taught in this book.

Lots of Graphing Calculator and Statistics but very little algebra.